Some of my pupils have used "mutual" instead of "each other" in our latest paper repeatedly. Again and again I read "They mutual write a text message" (I suppose at least an adverb would be needed here) whereas I would say "They write text messages to each other."

Is there a difference between mutually and each other? I don't like to interchange them, but I don't find any rules on that, either.

  • Although I agree it should be in adverbial form here, Noah Webster essentially says yes and I don't even suppose I even have much more to add to the subject than what he already says. The other dictionaries you presumably checked were probably too brusque in their attempt to define this sense of the word. Correspondence admittedly has several meanings but sending a letter to someone and receiving a response in return across distances was high among them and quite like what is happening here. – Tonepoet Jan 1 '16 at 13:20
  • 3
    First, your colleagues need to use the adverb (-ly) form, i.e. they mutually write.... Second, saying that means they compose text messages together, i.e. the collaborate on the composition of each message, not that they exchange messages. To say "they write messages to each other" or "they exchange messages" or even just the simple vernacular "they text each other", is what they mean to say in this context; "they mutual write text messages" is wrong, on several levels. In their attempt to sound more literate or erudite, they are simply sabotaging themselves. – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 14:02

I'm no expert on SmartPhone neologisms, but from what you've just described I'm deducing that mutual-write is a single new word, a verb, and the correct way of using it in a sentence would be something along the lines of

They mutual-write text messages.

It's a silly word, a fad word, it's Orwellian ("dayorders doubleplusungood, rewrite fullwise"), hopefully a passing craze; it might fall out of use eventually; but for now, at least, it is grammatically correct. Alas.


The word 'mutual' is an adjective according to the Merriam Webster. And we all know adjectives should be placed before nouns, not verbs. And what is more interesting, 'text message' is not recognized as a verb; 'text' is the verb according to Cambridge Dictionaries. It means to send a text message by phone.

Since 'text' can be used intransitively, no direct object is necessary. This leaves us with 'They texted.' An indirect object would add clarity if it were used: 'They texted each other." 'Mutually' ... I am ... err ... unsure. The word means 'with mutual action.' If it describes the manner of texting, it goes to the end of the sentence: They texted each other mutually. This is gibberish. The answer seems to lie in one's choice of words.

  • Sorry, but the verb used was "write", not "text". "Text message" was used as a noun here. Clearly, it should be "mutually" instead of "mutual", but is it acceptable to use "mutually" instead of "each other"? – lilalibelle Nov 29 '15 at 18:50

I think it's an acceptable use although I've never heard it before.

The online OED gives one meaning of "mutually" as "In a mutual relation; so as to reciprocate the same or an equivalent action, feeling, or effect; reciprocally."

It gives citations back to the 16th century including from 1847 "We mutually embraced."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.